The Socialist 22 November 2003
Bush out of Britain - Troops out of Iraq
Tube Workers Strike Against Management Spies
TUBE WORKERS on the Hammersmith and City Line and Circle line on London Underground took 24-hour strike action on Friday 14 November.
Members of the RMT railworkers' union took action to demand the reinstatement of Chris Barrett. Chris is a driver on the Hammersmith and City line who had been put under surveillance by the company while on sick leave.
London Underground hired spies with video cameras to monitor Chris while off sick. The company claim that Chris was caught coming out of a gym.
At his disciplinary hearing Chris and his union the RMT produced a letter and other evidence from his medical team saying he needed this exercise to overcome an ankle injury. Management has whipped up a campaign of hysteria around this strike. It is believed they provided a photo and personal details of Chris to the London Evening Standard, which has conducted a disgraceful campaign of abuse against Chris personally and the union in general.
RMT members and Chris are refusing to deal with the Standard but Chris gave an interview to the socialist on the picket line at Edgware Road last week.
"All the media attention of the last few weeks has been a bit of a shock. I've come home to find the Evening Standard outside my house.
The Standard effectively decided that I was guilty and hasn't investigated the facts. They've swallowed the management line, which painted me in a negative light. They've effectively made me unemployable. If I don't get this job back and I go for a job in the future, then no one is going to give me a job, no thanks to the Standard.
If the Standard spent as much time on issues like health and safety rather than digging the dirt, then they'd be doing Londoners more of a service. Unfortunately, Ken Livingstone the Mayor of London has apparently been on radio saying that me and the RMT are holding London to ransom.
This is a man who described management as 'dullards' and all of a sudden he's prepared to accept this same management's views on my case. This was the same day he announced he wanted to stand as Labour's official candidate for Mayor. I don't know if that's a coincidence or not.
It has put a lot of stress on my wife and me. I'm entitled to privacy and don't need my name and address plastered all over the paper.
Officially, the disciplinary process has been exhausted. We've been through the initial hearing and two appeals which were both unsuccessful. There was unofficial action by RMT members when the news of my dismissal first came out.
I've also lodged an appeal with the employment tribunal people and we hope the union's solicitors will take up my case. I think RMT general secretary Bob Crow has made it clear to the Underground that the door is still open if they want to talk.
Members of ASLEF [another railworkers' union] have phoned up to ask how I was doing. There are ASLEF members who specifically joined the RMT to take part in action to support me, because they felt so strongly about it. RMT grassroots' members have been fantastic in their support. I can't praise them enough. And officials like Bob Crow and Bob Law have been really good.
There are loads of people who don't have any official position in the union who have tirelessly run leafleting campaigns. Even if we don't win, I'll always remember the support."
Tube staff ballot on safety
AN INTERIM report by London Underground has highlighted the poor condition of the track in the vicinity of the Hammersmith derailment. A Piccadilly line train came off the rails as it went round a curve last month.
The report says the fault would not have been visible to the naked eye but it would have been spotted by ultrasound - the next inspection was due in a month but ultrasound checks are only done twice a year.
Track maintenance at Hammersmith is the responsibility of the Metronet private consortium. To defend safety on the tube, rail union RMT is demanding that all maintenance is brought back within London Underground. The result of a ballot for industrial action about safety will be announced on 20 November.
Action could include 24-hour strikes and tube drivers running trains at 'cautionary' speed where drivers feel there are problems with the track. The tube is used by more than three million passengers a day.
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